Sunday, October 31, 2010

All Hallows Eve

The usual Hallowe'en capers... At school on Friday, everyone - including the teachers - spent the day in costume, yesterday we made pumpkin soup (which N threw up) and today a motley group of kids trick-or-treated goodness knows how many flats in the compound. What does it all mean? Wikipedia tells us it has its roots in a Celtic festival called Samhain which celebrated the end of the lighter half of the year and the beginning of the darker half, and that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin then, allowing spirits to pass through. Costumes were donned to scare the bad ones away. So there you go.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

L is for...

Huge amount of worthy Ls, much to my surprise. Here's a tenuous top ten, but who are the pictures of?

- Bill Laswell
- La Dusseldorf
- Thomas Leer
- Kerry Leimer
- Library Tapes
- Lard Free
- Lobe
- Gary Lucas
- Led Zeppelin

Laswell is the genre-less musician par excellence, from funk, world and ambient to improv, jazz and noise. La D's three albums are all timeless but if I had to pick one it would be Viva! Gilbert Artman's Lard Free were one of the best French bands of the 70s. Kerry Leimer put out a few great Eno-influenced albums in the early 80s on his own Seattle-based Palace of Lights label, then went very quiet for a decade or two, but has been once again releasing stuff since 2000.

Thomas Leer is an odd one: experimental first single and shared album with Robert Rental, fabulous EP and slightly less good LP on Cherry Red, then very commercial period with an album on Arista and collaboration, as Act, with Claudia Brucken, then nothing for a decade, and now he's back making fairly low-key, OK instrumental music.

Lobe are in there, if only for their first abum, one of my favourites from mid-90s electronica. And I'm happy to include more recent discoveries (for me anyway): the deliciously ambient Library Tapes (aka Swede David Wenngren) and Gary Lucas, one-time Beefheart guitarist, both courtesy of another Gary. Led Zep? Well, if only for their third album.

But there's a ton of others: Ligeti, Alvin Lucier; Dickie Landry, The Lost Jockey, Little Feat, John Lennon, Liliental, Lemon Kittens, Pacale Languirand, Daniel Lentz, Benjamin Lew, Logic System, Lounge Lizards, Laraaji, Lydia Lunch, Laibach, Lights in a Fat City, Lush, Loop, Alan Lamb, Daniel Lanois, Lamb, Laika, Robert Leiner, Leftfield, LFO, Locust, Loop Guru, LaBradford, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Ladytron, Landing, Larsen & Friends, Lost in Hildurness, Le Lendemain... most of which could have ousted half of the 'Top Ten'.

Friday, October 29, 2010

One step forward, one step back

Up and down day. Very positive meeting with the State Administration of Cultural Heritage about a long term programme of UK-China co-operation, followed by a long, tense teleconference with London about something else and involving too many people. Twelve hours in the office. Looking forward to the weekend.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Yellow Earth

Definitely a film theme this week. Went to the excellent MOMA cinema to see a key film in China's cinematic history, Yellow Earth, directed by Chen Kaige in 1984. This was one of the first major films to emanate from the so-called Fifth Generation, the initial wave of directors who came out of the re-opened Beijing Film Academy after it had all but closed down during the Cultural Revolution. It not only kicked off Kaige's career (Farewell My Concubine followed later) but also Zhang Yimou's, who was responsible for the cinematography. Anyway, despite a poor print (lots of scratches, and a strange red tint - it should have been renamed Red Earth), it was a good, slow if fairly rudimentary film (it felt more like it was made in the 50s rather than the 80s) about - without going into detail - a soldier collecting folk songs in the poor, arid province of Shaanxi and the effect he has on one particular peasant. Oh yes, and Liz lost two earrings... but the staff found them!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

EU Film Festival

This morning I attended the press conference for the upcoming EU Film Festival which will be screened in Beijing and then tour to Xi'an and Chengdu. I know EUFFs well enough from both Tokyo and Bangkok where they were mildly diverting affairs, but in China they strike more of a chord because of the limited quota of foreign films allowed for general release each year. Happily, film festivals are exempt. Anyway, the EU Ambassador gave a speech and then a trailer showing 10 second snippets of all 25 films was shown. Much to everyone's surprise, almost all of them featured sex: snogging, stripping off, the works... At the end, Monsieur Ambassadeur said: "I'm not sure who compiled this but I feel I should point out that this is not totally representative of European lifestyles. It's true we like to make love, but we also have jobs, raise children, eat, drink and go shopping".

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Cost of Culture

Was on the verge of postponing an already much postponed lunch with Francois Chambraud, Director of the French Cultural Centre, but forced myself to jump on my bike and make the time. Glad I did. What a lovely place: library, bookshop, cinematheque & cafe on the ground floor, language classes on the second, exams & university enquiries on the third, and photographic exhibitions lining the stairs & walls. It was full of people, both Chinese & French. It made me long for a public-facing establishment but the fact is: we can't teach English in China (yet), we work with partners' venues rather than bringing people into our own building, and it's just too expensive. The FCC's location is great but the rent is sky high. So, in short, we're practical, living in a time of cuts.

This when the French Minister of Culture, Frederic Mitterand, announced that the French Culture budget will actually increase by 2.7%. "Though most of the countries of Europe have chosen to trim, often substantially, their culture budgets, France has made a different choice. The cultural offering is a determining element in our attractiveness as a country and its economic development."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Chinese Movie Posters

Beijing's a lot colder than Shanghai; spent most of the day indoors catching up with Liz and the girls.. nice to be home. However, did make a quick sortie to the last day of an intriguing exhibition of China-related movie posters called Movie Art China covering films made in the Shanghai heyday, Socialist-Realist propaganda from 1950-80, Western movies about China (though some, like Chinatown were a bit tenuous) and ending with Hong Kong kung fu capers from the 70s. Here are two interesting ones: Early Spring (1963), not to be confused with Ozu's 1956 film of the same name, and Antonioni's Chung Kuo, Cina (1972), a little-seen documentary made at the invitation of Mao but denounced on completion. It had its first showing in Beijing in 2004.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Shanghai Biennale

The decision not to go to the Expo at the crack of dawn was a relatively easy one. It was raining... hard. The prospect of queueing for hours in a typhoon with a million others (last Saturday they broke the record for a day) just did not appeal. The Chinese Pavilion will remain while the others are taken down so at least I can see that some other time.

In any case, there was the Shanghai Biennale to see, which took up all four floors of the Shanghai Art Museum. Some good stuff, not least Isaac Julien's Ten Thousand Waves, a 50 minute piece of sumptuous visual poetry which weaved a ghostly theme between ancient and modern - including the tragic drowning of 23 Chinese cocklepickers in Morecombe Bay in 2004. For this showing, a Chinese/Polish duo calling themselves Chop provided live electronic music (replacing Jah Wobble's earlier version).

Friday, October 22, 2010

Shanghai fashion

The conference finished at lunchtime, goodbyes, checked out of the hotel, dumped suitcase at C&M's, walked to the office and spent the rest of the afternoon catching up on emails. Met Leigh and Paul to discuss 2012 project over drinks before attending a fashion show by Jenny Ji. Fashion shows are the strangest of things: beautiful clothes, production, music, lighting; super-glamorous but mostly hype; are they art or commerce?; so much time & effort gone into them... and all over in a flash - or rather, several thousand flashes.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Silent Middle

Day 2 of the conference and it didn't get any better ("The politics of rehearsal, the essence of action and the silent middle" anyone?) so bunked off after lunch to catch up with a torrent of emails in my hotel room before heading into town to meet a music promoter who wants to bring Nithin Sawhney to China. Refreshing to actually do something practical rather than just talk about the abstract.

Meanwhile, in the Government's public sector cuts, it was announced today that the British Council's grant from the FCO will be cut from £180m to £149m by 2014 (the rest of our budget is earned thru the English and exams business. The Board thinks this is "reasonable" all things considered. Spare a thought for 19 of the DCMS's other public bodies which were either abolished (eg UK Film Council and Museum, Libraries and Archives Council) or drastically reformed (eg the Arts Council has to make administrative savings of 50%).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Conferences & Esplanades

I'm attending the 3rd European-Chinese Cultural Dialogue discussing such topics as Culture & Ecological Civilisation, Mutual Undertstanding & Cognition in Chinese & European Art Circles, and so on. Interesting up to a point, and good people there, but these kind of circular discussions always seem to focus on state-supported high arts while ignoring anything at street level, not least anything 'commercial'. The fact that we were a room full of middle-aged (or older) bureaucrats, with probably only a hazey understanding of what young people want or young artists do, only reinforced my skepticism. Hope we get to the point tomorrow.

That said, I sat next to Fang Dian, probably the most respected curator in the country and now Director of the National Art Museum of China... and it was good to meet old friends: Charles Landry (Mr Creative Cities), Markus Wernhard (whom I knew from Tokyo days), Gabriela Massaci (ex-BC Romania, now freelance cultural commentator), etc.

Nice to get out on to the Bund for the evening for a couple of exhibition openings and drinks/dinner with Markus & Caroline again. It's such a gorgeously romantic stretch of buildings, all renovated, floodlit and oozing retro glamour. Drinks at the Long Bar in the Waldorf Astoria, dinner at Jean Georges and nightcap at House of Roosevelt (sounds decadent, and it was)... while across the river Pudong's skyscrapers told another (21st Century) story.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Meetings in the morning then bullet train to the nearby city of Suzhou to discuss the showing of a BC exhibition with the Director of Suzhou Museum. The museum is in fact two: the former home of Christian convert Hong Xiuquan who, as leader of the Taipeng Heavenly Kingdom, fought a little-known (to the West) but very bloody civil war against the Manchu-dominated Qing Dynasty in the mid-19th Century; and a new I M Pei-designed museum where we'll show our exhibition. Suzhou is famous for its UNESCO-listed gardens - Humble Administrator's Garden, Garden to Linger In, Couple's Garden (lovely names) - but which unfortunately I didn't have time to see.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A walk through 1920s/30s Shanghai

Flew to Shanghai this morning and will be here all week for various things. Good to meet the team and options are coming together for strengthening it post-Expo. Nice lunch with Gavin (our Director here - I first met him 11 years ago when he was Our Man in Sapporo) and James Kennedy who who used to be Director Russia during the 'difficult times' a few years ago when we were bullied and all but closed down by the authorities. Bruised, he left the BC a couple of years ago to become International Director at Warwick University and looked a happy man.

Then off to Markus & Caroline's on the edge of the French Concession. We ate at a nice Thai restaurant and strolled home through lanes lined with plane trees, art deco houses and chic boutiques & caf├ęs. It was like walking through Paris or maybe Richmond. Tranquil and beautiful - a preserved bubble of the old European world surrounded by modern China.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tobogganing down the Wall

Finally visited the Great Wall today, the Mutianyu section 90km north-east of Beijing, with the aforementioned Alex. Car there, chair-lift up, fairly arduous but fabulous stroll along, and toboggan down. Yes, a long, snaking stainless steel slide "safely sends tourists to the foot of Great Wall... on a Nanirrigated farmland sled. Toboggan uses the theory of acceieration of gravity and makes coasters dive along the mountain path like low - latitude flying or high - speed driwing". Quite.

The 'original' wall was begun over 2,000 years ago to keep out the Mongol hordes. It's never really been a fully continuous structure: most sections have either been reduced to rubble or disappeared but there are parts near Beijing, particularly, which have been restored and are incredibly impressive. (Still in Tolkien mode, the mountains looked very Mordor). And no, you can't see it from space.


This evening I attended a dinner for the V&A Museum who'd brought some of their benefactors over on a cultural excursion. On my table was Edward Atkin, the guy who founded Avent, the baby products company. He sold it recently and now spends his time being philanthropic to the arts. Anyway, nice guy, and turned out that he also co-designed - with Dave Simmons - the Simmons drum kit, so beloved of early 80s synthband drummers. Altogether now: piaooooow!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friends Reunited

Today I met an old schoolfriend, Alex Perkins. We were best friends in the mid 70s, sharing those formative experiences common to many young teens at that time: Lord of the Rings, Roger Dean, Yessongs, Leeds/Chelsea, first girlfrends etc, before drifting apart around the 6th year. Thirty years passed before we bumped into each in Bangkok in 2008 and since then we've kept in touch. He's here on business but this evening I took him to see Othello followed by reminiscing over a drink. He has a much more jaded view of Chi High than I do, and probably nearer the mark. Good to catch up.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Made in China

The words Made in China are on pretty much everything we buy nowadays, mass-produced in mega-factories. On the face of it, Ai Weiwei's installation of 100 million porcelain replica sunflower seeds in Tate's Turbine Hall is more of the same, but actually each is hand-fired and hand-painted by inhabitants of Jingdezhen, the 'porcelain capital' of China. Is this mass production or individual craftsmanship? How many of them are there really? Is it OK to pocket one? Will kids choke on them? (this comment is raging in the blogosphere; I mean, come on...) How much did it cost? Is it art? Isn't it a bit boring? Isn't it beautiful? As usual, it's the debate that's just as interesting and important than any aesthetic appeal.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Domestic Bliss 2

Our flat is beginning to look more like a home. Sofa and dining table arrived yesterday, bookshelves today. The table was too big to fit in the lift so had to be carried up 14 flights of stairs to where we are on the 17th floor (work that one out if you can...). It also has a long and incredibly heavy slab of slate in the middle which may not be entirely practical but looks good . My colleague, Xiao Zuo, who supervised it all, asked if we had any air freshener, such was the state of the guys who brought it up. This evening I filled the bookshelves, resisting the temptation to browse, and got rid of the last of the boxes. Very satisfying. Still got all our pictures to hang on walls, but we're definitely getting there.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Jackie Chan meets Richard Clayderman

Back to glitz and glamour. This evening I was invited to a spectacular event at the Beizhan Theatre to celebrate the rather mundane occasion of the merging of two districts, Xicheng and Xuanwu, west of the Forbidden City - the equivalent of say Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea becoming one big borough. I was expecting a reception with some worthy speeches, but it turned out to be a 2hr show in the Spring Show style that China does every new year with equal amounts of kitsch and panache.

We had... Jackie Chan kicking it off; scores of dancing children marshalled by the equivalent of John Noakes and Valerie Singleton; Li Guyi, China's first pop star, looking pretty good for her 60+ years; a full-on snippet of Chinese opera; endorsements from famous Xicheng residents (eg. film director Chen Kaige), "Nesum Dorma" sung by a student of Pavarotti; acrobats tossing & spinning those glorified yoyo things (Diablos?); stories about Xicheng's glorious heritage; the "Beijing Welcomes You" song from the Olympics; and - yes - Richard Clayderman performing with the leggy, conservatoire-trained, made-in-marketing-heaven, 12 Girls Band who play traditional Chinese instruments in knee-high boots. Clayderman, one of the first western musicians to perform and make it big in China, still has that haircut and smiles that smile.
So why was I invited? Buried somewhere in the full-on, tightly choregraphed spectacular, was a bit about a London-Beijing Olympics painting competition.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Design curators

Main event for today was looking after 11 design curators from the likes of V&A, Design Museum, RIBA, Somerset House, RA etc, over here to meet their Chinese counterparts and get some more exchange going. Nice to see freelancers Liz Farrelly and Clare Cumberlidge again. Interestingly, there was only one bloke. In the afternoon we did a pecha kucha style session at Today Art Museum which coincidentally is showing an interesting exhibition co-curated by Jonathan Watkins of Birmingham's Ikon Gallery. This is what I love about the job, getting away from the desk and meeting creative types. If you're interested, see more here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Domestic Bliss

It's not all jazz and glitz and glamour. This weekend has been more about staying in and men coming round to fix things. We were looking forward to delivery of our made-to-measure white bookshelves this morning, but it turned out they weren't painted so it's books in boxes for another week yet. Nevermind, our two cases of wine did arrive except that much of it turned out to be half bottles. So that's why it was cheap. The landlord took away our on-the-blink 32" TV and replaced it with a 27"; couldn't understand why we wanted a smaller one. Two men came round to try to sort out our landline phone which only rings twice. Another man came to test our smoke alarms. More men round to perform a routine check on our aircon while I was in boxer shorts making pancakes. Cooking, hoovering, washing, cleaning, homework, making a cardboard TV for N... Domestic bliss.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


This evening I went to Chang An Grand Theatre, not to see Chinese Opera for which it's famous, but for the opening night of Beijing Ninegates Jazz Festival. Jazz and I don't get on that well. Call me a philistine, but I've never really warmed to trad, dixieland, swing, bebop, free etc. A little 'Miles' is OK, some jazz rock, a touch of ECM, even a bit of jazz-funk, but that's about it.

Opening act was a swing band from Germany who played Dean Martin / Benny Goodman / Henry Mancini type stuff which I'm afraid left me cold. But the headliners were Chinese. Jazz was quite big in Shanghai in the 1930s but little heard in the half century that followed. Since the 1980s it's opened up somewhat, mostly inspired by a sax player called Liu Yuan. Anyway, tonight's band were Golden Buddha Jazz Unit, led by pianist Kong Hongwei. Mostly it was fairly standard, albeit sophisticated, Western-influenced stuff, but it got interesting when traditional Chinese instruments were introduced, particularly the 3-stringed san xian played by Liu Lin, and also when Liu Yuan guested. But it was too formulaic for my tastes. Perhaps when I pass my half-century I'll 'get it'. Maybe opera too.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Socialism is Great!

Lunch with Lijia Zhang, journalist and author of Socialism is Great! As Peter Hessler, Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker, wrote: "A beautiful memoir... Our current China is heavy with victim memoirs, but this is a tale of aspiration: a young woman coming of age in a nation desperately trying to do the same". Looking forward to reading it. A colourful character, wonderful English complete with BBC accent, and to think she worked in a missiles factory. Good Yunnan food too.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Today, finally, we have a real pea-souper. Grey grey grey. Is it the weather or pollution? I guess a bit of both. If there's cloud cover and no wind then you get a haze hanging over the city. Which brings us on to 'Cloudbusting' (remember Kate Bush's video with Donald Sutherland?) or, more accurately, 'Cloud Seeding' - the firing of silver nitrate compounds into clouds to make them rain (helping combat drought) and as a by-product creating clear skies (good for parades and major sporting events). I thought this was science fiction but I seem to remember talk of it around the Beijing Olympics. Actually, it's been around for decades. Israel is a leading exponent, USA too; Utah has apparently increased preciptation by 30% using the process. In China, apparently around 32,000 people are employed to fire the stuff into the skies using basic anti-aircraft guns and rocket launchers. Does it really work? Seems so. But it doesn't solve the pollution problems. For more, see this.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

K is for...

Making up for lost time, with 10Ks and two dated pix...

- Kraftwerk
- King Crimson
- Ariel Kalma
- Mick Karn
- Kiln
- Richard H Kirk
- Fela Kuti
- Killing Joke
- Salif Keita
- Kluster

Treading water for the last 30 years, it's difficult to overstate the importance of Kraftwerk's first decade. Autobahn, Trans Europe Express, Man Machine and Computer World are the ones that really matter, and seeing them in 1981 was epiphanal, although my personal fave is Ralf and Florian. Around the time of getting into Kraftwerk (1974), 'my favourite band' was briefly King Crimson. They'd just released Starless and Bible Black and were about to die a glorious (first) death with Red. 'Starless', which I remember playing to bemused 3rd year schoolchums in Music Appreciation class, remains one of the all-time essential tracks.

Kluster are in there for historical curiosity value. I rarely play those ultra-rare, abrasive first two LPs, nor the unearthed recordings since. Let's face it, Cluster were a lot easier on the ear. Ariel Kalma is a French musician whose handprinted first album, Les Temps des Moissons (1976), sounds like Terry Riley and second, Osmose (1978), with Richard Tinti, combines drones and field recordings of Borneo's rainforest. Everything since has been decidedly patchy. I came to Fela Kuti a bit late but he's definitely Top 10.

Mick Karn's solo output has always been interesting. Sad to hear that he's pretty seriously ill now, but encouraging that he's still due to collaborate with Pete Murphy again on a Dali's Car follow-up. Cabaret Voltaire's Richard H Kirk put out scores of albums in the 90s/00s, only some of which are under his own name and most of which sound rather similar. But a 'Best Of' CDR I compiled a while back is still played to death. Kiln, an American ambient trio, easily qualify. Killing Joke just about scrape in (on another day it would surely be The Kinks), as does Salif Keita.

Honourable mentions to Kelpe, Kid Loco, Krisma, Kitaro (early stuff), Dagmar Krause, Kronos Quartet, Koto Vortex, Konono No.1, Kreidler, KLF, Thomas Koner, Konntinent, Julia Kent, Jacarzek and Kruder & Dorfmeister. Better luck next time to Kool & the Gang, Kiss and Kraan.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fragrant Hills

Last day of the long weekend and it's another gorgeously sunny one. People tell us we're very lucky; it's true, we seem to have had a year of blue skies in our first two months. We headed off early, with new-found friends Uli & Joon and their two young children, to Xiangshan Park, otherwise known as Fragrant Hills, just to the west of the city. It's a big forested area with trails ascending to Incense-Burner Peak. By the North Gate is the beautiful Azure Clouds Temple which dates from 1331 and leads to Vajrasana Pavilion where Sun Yat Sen's body was kept for four years after his death (can't remember why). Then, back into the park proper to join half of China. These were the crowds we'd been warned about, but it was just about bearable - although the steep trails defeated our buggy-lumbered friends and they retired to the park's I M Pei-designed hotel for a beer. We failed to make it to the top too.

On the way back we stopped off at the Old Summer Palace (Yuan Ming Yuan) not to be confused with the Summer Palace (Yihe Yuan). This is now just ruins dotted between lakes, the result of British and French forces destroying the place in 1860 (Opium Wars), and again in 1900 (Boxer Rebellion). It's been left as it is to remind people what it's like to be dominated by foreign powers. Guilty consciences aside, we enjoyed a pleasant stroll, the girls playing cat & mouse with photographers. Hordes of people again but it was a big enough place to be tolerable.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Education education education

Tonight I watched The Goddess, a Chinese film from 1934. Set in Shanghai, it's a pretty bleak story of a prostitute struggling to make ends meet. She's chased by the police, her young son expelled from school because of her occupation, and robbed by a pimp whom she then kills and off to prison she goes. The only 'positive' thing to happen is when a kindly teacher adopts the boy and promises to personally educate him. Good film though.

The theme of education runs through a book I'm just finishing too: Da Chen's Colors of the Mountain. It's the autobiographical account of a young boy growing up in 1970s rural China. A very bright boy, he was at first stymied by the Cultural Revolution when education was frowned upon, but was just in time to be given the opportunity to catch up, pass his exams and get a place at Beijing University to major in English.

To secure a good education for one's children is the thing that drives most parents in China these days, especially if it was denied them when they themselves were young. It's actually quite scary how focussed they are.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Silver Mountain Pagodas

A gloriously sunny day spent 60km north of Beijing to see some pagodas, picnic and hike a bit in the lee of Silver Mountain. It was a school trip for both parents and children. Nice idea. The pagodas, five of them, beautifully laid out, date back to 1145 when the area was a major centre of Buddhist practise. The front three have 13 tiers, the back two 7, always odd numbers. But the foundations are octagonal or hexagonal, always even numbers. Yin and yang. We walked almost to the top of the 'mountain', through fragrant pine forest and alongside a gushing stream. Great to get out of the city.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Saturday Night Fever

Today we finally received the DVDs of A & N's performances in La Fille Mal Gardee in Bangkok from four months ago. Coincidentally, this evening we bundled ourselves into a taxi and headed across to the China Grand Theatre on the other side of town to see the 3rd Beijing International Ballet Invitational for Dance Schools, Demonstration Performance 2. Sounds boring? Not a bit of it. Around 20 international dance schools were invited to perform over the course of a week. We chose 'China night', featuring seven very different performances by schools from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The standard was incredibly high: brilliant choreography, dancing, costumes, lighting and stage design. N kept saying "That's incredible!" Maybe she should have been a judge.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Happy Birthday

The People's Republic of China was founded 61 years ago today so, reasonably enough, it's a public holiday. In fact, the first of three... five if you count the weekend in between. Joy. The flags were out (including our local cafe, right) but no big processions like last year's Big 60. In fact it was quite quiet. Today everyone's on the move. Beijingers are heading out while the rest of China heads in. We were thinking of finally going to the Forbidden City this weekend, but were met with 'You've got to be kidding' expressions. So today we pottered at home and some German friends came round for kaffee und kuchen. There's a lot that could be said about China between 1949 and now, but not here. Suffice it to say, we're happy to be here and enjoying the adventure.